25 February 2009

Rubbing Shoulders (a five-part story)

Because of my personality and also because of the way I move around Kenya – namely by foot, bicycle, matatu, bus, and motorcycle – I encounter the average “Joe Kenyan”-on-the-street in a more personal and up-close fashion than do those with their own cars.

I like it that way. It’s what I do.

Most of the time, rubbing shoulders like this is quite charming. Generally speaking, Kenyans are extremely friendly and they maintain a simple outlook on life. I find both of these traits quite attractive.

Recently, I boarded a matatu at the end of the driveway where I live. As is typical, the conductor was in his twenties or thirties. Wearing a golf-style cap, he kindly ushered me into his vehicle. “I see you going to town every day”.

“But, I don’t go to town every day. Even now, I’m just reaching Karen dukas.”

We shared the same seat because he had squeezed in too many passengers. After a quick five minutes, we were almost to my destination. He hadn’t yet taken my fare, so I tapped him on the shoulder. “How much do I owe you? 10- or 20-bob?”

“Today… twenty. Tomorrow I’ll only charge you ten,” he said with a sheepish grin.

“Okay, thanks,” I said as I alighted and handed him a “pound” (twenty shilling coin). A charming encounter.

Another day, I was again waiting at the end of the driveway. I signaled a bus to stop for me. The cumbersome vehicle rolled to a stop just ahead of me, kicking up a huge cloud of dust as it did so. Pausing momentarily on the shoulder, it leaned awkwardly to one side.

The smiling conductor hung on precariously as I jogged towards it. “Karibu (welcome). We’ll take you to Nairobi.”

Climbing up the steps as the vehicle simultaneously climbed back onto the road, I struggled to maintain my balance. The passengers had no choice but to bounce along wearily, lost in their own thoughts.

When I stood to alight at Karen shops and gave him my fare, he said, “Oh, you’re only going this far with us. Good day.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Deb..
Riding on a matatu gives definition to the term "packed like a can of sardines!" Neat pics, as usual. Enjoy reading your entries. So when care you coming out with your second book?
Blessings and love from Kentucky...